(Reuters) - Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish and the Rangers offense broke out of slumps to thump the Houston Astros 6-2 in the opening game of their Texas derby in Arlington on Friday.
Darvish, who enjoyed a sensational 6-1 start to his Major League Baseball career but hit a rough patch that dimmed his record to 7-4, was back in impressive form, scattering seven hits over eight innings to earn the win.
The Japanese ace, who had complained of fatigue, was given extra time between starts and the rest seemed to do the trick, Darvish matching his career high with 11 strikeouts while issuing two walks to improve to 8-4.
“In the early part of the game, I was very careful throwing strikes and getting the rhythm of the game,” Darvish told MLB.com. “The second half, I really went after it.
“Overall, I was able to throw a lot of strikes and it was a very good outing.”
After scoring just four runs on eight hits over their last two outings, the Rangers bats were booming again with 11 hits despite the absence of slugger Josh Hamilton, who was hospitalized on Friday with an intestinal virus.
Jed Lowrie gave the Astros the advantage with an RBI single in the third inning before the Texas bats came to life with a five-run burst in the fifth.
Michael Young and Adrian Beltre each drove in a run before David Murphy followed with a two-run single to shallow center.
“It was a really good win,” Murphy said. “Our offense didn’t really get going for a few innings. Yu did a great job of keeping us in the ball game.
“It was only a matter of time before we came around.
“We took advantage of the mistakes and we had some consecutively big at-bats up there and got things rolling.”
Yorvit Torrealba added an RBI single to close out the big inning and hand Darvish a four-run lead he would not surrender.
Justin Maxwell homered off Darvish in the seventh but Mitch Moreland answered for the Rangers with a solo shot in the eighth to complete the scoring.
“He (Darvish) was great,” Young added. “Anytime he’s on the mound, we feel confident that he’s going to go do his job well.
“He did a great job for us.
“Eight innings is big, especially when our pitching staff could use innings from our starters. It was definitely big for us.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by John O'Brien